Wanted: A Millennial who knows what the f*ck she’s doing

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I talk (write?) a lot about my job on this blog and how hard it was to get where I am today (currently on my bed, watching bob’s burgers, in a blanket burrito). But it’s not like I spent my childhood dreaming of being an agent’s assistant, or even working in publishing. My quote-unquote dream job changed fairly often as I was growing up and they all spanned a multitude of subjects.

When I was very little I wanted to be an illustrator. I always loved drawing, requesting sketch pads and crayons every Christmas. I remember one weekend, where my sister and I sat at my grandmother’s dining room table using water colors to paint, thinking that my sister was going to write books, and I was going to draw things for them. But I soon realized that my talents were never going to get any better than my third grade hand.

Once I realized this, I shifted focus. Dolphins had recently become my favorite animal and getting to spend days splashing around with them sounded like absolute bliss (reminder this was a pre blackfish world we were living in). This desire to train sea animals lasted throughout most of middle school until one day my mom took me to the Baltimore Aquarium to see an actual dolphin show (to help support my interests – thanks mom!). During the performance, one of the trainers talked about how one becomes a trainer, and listed the many books and courses one would have to read and take – and though I’m not proud of this, the  thought of all that work just to play with dolphins soured the whole process. So naturally I switched to a much more manageable career.

Not. Around the end of middle school/early high school I was reading a lot of non-fiction and was also getting into my family history. Not to mention, my immediate family and I were always into shows like The West Wing and NCIS. All of this contributed to my desire to be a spy for the CIA. My maternal grandfather had worked for the CIA and I was intrigued by international travel and the excitement of a high stakes environment. So, to once again foster support for my budding interests, my mom took me to the International Spy Museum in DC and bought me a memoir written by a former agent. But after this and my own extensive research it became apparent that a life of a spy was much harder and a lot more boring than I originally had thought. And I was slowly becoming much more interested in talking to “interesting people” than actually being an “interesting person” myself.

This was the beginning of a hope for a career in journalism. In high school I got super into music and subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine. I loved how the editors covered any topic under the sun and weren’t afraid to tout controversial ideas (this was about ten years ago when legalized weed was still a pretty controversial issue). I learned all about the history of music and politics and Hunter S. Thompson. I found new and interesting people to follow on budding social media websites. And this interest eventually led me to other quirky outlets such as McSweeny’s Quarterly Concern. All of this showed me that anything can be a story if you tell it interestingly enough. And it seemed like all the writers in these magazines got to sit down with the “most interesting people in the world” and ask them questions about why they do what they do. Nothing sounded more fascinating to me.

To this day I am still fascinated by it. Though my focus in college shifted from journalism to history, I still wanted to write and talk about interesting people and social trends. But what changed is the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell. In college I realized that I didn’t just want to be a mouth piece for something or someone else. I wanted to create something new – by myself, for myself. Once I realized I wasn’t going to pursue a journalism career, I started looking at avenues that would allow me to think about and work on stories every day. Thus when I graduated, I started to look for jobs in publishing.

Today I still don’t necessarily know what my passion is or “what I want to be when I grow up.” I know that I have always wanted to perform and draw and act and express my self visually. And I know that I have the skills and connections to navigate an industry that can be unrelenting. But I wish I wasn’t so timid about expressing my passions no matter what they are. Sometimes I am afraid that my lack commitment to any career or idea, will result in me never finding something that truly fills my soul.

But perhaps, I won’t ever need to figure that out. Barring some lack of inherent talent, I knew that if I worked hard enough, I would be capable of pursuing every career listed above – and maybe that’s all that matters.

I Found Love in a Hopeless Place

1-UVt3VAqz-s1r03HMbhdYQAHey guys…remember that time when I said I hoped the next time something hard happened I’d be able to push through it and write this blog anyway?

HA.

Let me set the stage:

Listen, sometimes a diet of NPR and West Wing does things to a person. I once made people switch seats with me at a bar so I could watch the coverage of the government shut down while they were watching…sports of some kind. I’ve often told people I have a huge crush on Jon Favreau and then had to explain that I meant Obama-speech-writer Jon Favreau, not Iron-Man-movies Jon Favreau. And then had to pull a picture of Obama speech-writer-Jon Favreau on my phone. I yell at people a lot, everyone from my parents to my sister to coworkers and friends and random people at bars. It gets me in all kinds of trouble.

Post-election was the worst kind of hangover, the kind where you know something awful happened the night before but you have no idea what the outcome is going to be or if you’re going to be able to come back from it. It was the kind of natural disaster where you reach out to the people you love just to let them know you love them. I kept wanting to have some kind of wake. The worst kind of finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real.

I really didn’t want to care about it anymore. I ended up with months of backlogs of podcasts that I knew I’d never listen to but couldn’t delete because just looking at them upset me. I read the articles and the tweets and I made the posts and the phone calls but it was all out of some kind of desperate anxiety more than any kind of passion.

Plus, there’s no one to yell at anymore. Everyone is just as desperate, just as numb, just as outraged as you. Unless your specific type of Trump-feelings match up with someone else’s at the exact right moment in time, you just end up yelling into their void, or nodding vacantly while they yell into yours.

So I was ripe for the taking when I found Crooked Media. They’d been doing the Keeping it 1600 podcast under the Ringer company during the election, which I had never gotten around to listening to because my own personal podcast renaissance hadn’t started yet, but after the election they moved to start their own company. They’ll give you a lot of good reasons why, but I think the answer is mostly that they wanted a lot more yelling and profanity.

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Be still my heart, Jon Favs. 

The group includes Jon Favreau (of crush fame) and his friends Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor. They all are in their early to mid-thirties, which means they were working for Obama in their mid-twenties, which is staggering. In addition to yelling a lot, they also seem to be very close friends who are really smart and have a lot of faith in each other. It’s like a real life West Wing, made all the more similar because we only listen to them a few times a week and don’t see all the hard, boring stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

This is not a prescription. Their particular mode of yelling and analyzing and anger might not work for you. And that’s cool. But nothing in the Trump era has given me quite so much catharsis as listening to a usually calm, tempered Tommy Vietor absolutely lose his shit about the attempted ACA repeal, or as much joy as Favreau’s suggestion that George Soros use SquareCash to pay all us hardworking protesters. And on the days where I can’t bring myself to open the 5Calls app on my phone because of exhaustion or anxiety or whatever, I can always find a push in one of them asking “So what can you guys do to help?” and then making sure we get the answer.

Well that’s one version of the story. The other is that I still have a giant crush on Jon Favreau and when I describe their podcasts to people I call it intellectual puppy bowl. I’m a sucker for their team-as-family, puppy pile bro aesthetic, and I cannot be denied. I also happen to get informed in the meantime.

Listen, people. We have to find joy where we can.

How I got my dentist to pay me for cavities

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First look at this adorable baby

Hi everyone! We’re back! Kind of…we’re certainly trying. We had to take a break because we got busy and the world got super depressing. The orange man was elected and is fucking shit up, Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, and society is constantly on edge, making sure we don’t take one step too far over the ledge. I don’t have to tell you how exhausting all that is. So instead, please read this story about how I managed to get paid to have cavities.

Our story begins about a year ago. I had finally gotten my shit together and made a dentist appointment after a year or so of avoiding it. I couldn’t bear my father’s disappointment (again) so one Tuesday afternoon I found myself in my least favorite place. I got a cleaning done and was told I had four cavities, which sucked but isn’t the worst thing to ever happen at a dentist office to a Danver (ask Sara about how she once had 12 cavities…).

After the cleaning, I didn’t want to waste anymore of my afternoon so I told the dentist I would reschedule to have the cavities filled another time and asked for a quote on what the fillings would cost. I had recently found out my insurance didn’t cover fillings, (which is a whole other problem) so I was a bit wary of what the cost might be. According to the office, the four fillings would come to roughly $1,100.

My jaw dropped. I DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF MONEY! I HAVE LOANS AND I OCCASIONALLY LIKE TO EAT.

Once I stopped laughing I left the dentist’s office and went back to work and cried like a baby to my parents. They agreed to help me financially in whatever way I needed but suggested I start looking elsewhere for dental hygiene. They suggested I look at NYU dental school because students are adorable and cheap. I thought why the hell not, so I called and made an introductory appointment.

The thing about dental students is that they have to work very slowly, as every stage of their work has to be checked by an actual professor. I was okay with this, as long as no mistakes we made, plus it meant more time out of the office – so far this situation was a win win. As my student dentist, Robert, was checking my x-rays at this first visit, he focused on two specific cavities.

“Those are textbook cavities,” he said.

“What does that mean?” I replied.

“It means they’re beautiful. These cavities deserve the greatest treatment possible – to be put on a pedestal.” As he said this, he placed a single hand on the monitor, a tear rolling down his cheek.

ANYWAYS, to make long story short he asked me if we could wait to fill those cavities for his dental boards, the equivalent of the dental school final exam. And in exchange for this, he said he would pay me. As a broke, pretend adult, my immediate reaction was of course, where do I sign. So over the last few months, my student dentist Robert has filled my other two cavities and at one point even threw in a free cleaning. He also prescribed me some prescription toothpaste so that these two cavities wouldn’t turn into root canals.

So after a year of slowly filling in cavities and making random appointments, tomorrow at 8am I will be walking into the NYU dental center to spend 4-5 hours getting two cavities filled while multiple dental professors and students stare into my mouth my long periods of time. I will walk away with some spare change, clean teeth, and the knowledge that I helped a dental student achieve his dreams.

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Every Week is a Strange Week, Also Metaphors

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I believe wholeheartedly in the power of storytelling to help us understand ourselves and each other, to make sense of the world we live in. And while I don’t believe that we have to be able to identify with characters or worlds for this to work – and in fact, it wouldn’t work if that were the case – I do think it’s interesting the way that some stories become so far reaching in spite of a highly specific and localized narrative structure.

This has been coming up a lot for me with Netflix shows. For example, Daredevil:

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Watching Daredevil feels like a superhero show – this may seem obvious, but when you think about it, it is by far the most local of all the Marvel storylines. Daredevil is essentially fighting an extremely violent version of gentrification in his neighborhood, but it feels of a scale with the wormhole that opens up above the Empire State Building in the first Avengers movie. Jessica Jones, I’ve already talked about, but is still worth mentioning again. It’s a specific story, about a woman and her superpowers and the villain she’s fighting, but it too is of a much larger scale – a metaphorical one, a more universal female experience of the power that society gives men over women.

I like the big stories, the ones that are bigger than the world I can see. I like the ones that use superpowers and spaceships and magic to manipulate the world, to twist what I know into a new shape so that I can look at it from a different angle. And yeah, I like to escape. I like a world that is at least partly unrecognizable. Everyone has moments where they don’t want to be here wherever here is, and when that happens I like to read or watch something that I can disappear into.

Still, there has to be something recognizable, right? It’s hard to immerse yourself in a world where everything is unfamiliar. I’ve talked about Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand before, and while I love it a lot, it’s not the most immersive story. Pronouns don’t even work the same way. Still, there is something recognizable even in that too – a specificity about relationships and attraction that comments on and reflects a recognizable experience.

I was thinking about this a lot while watching Stranger Things which is such a weird, beautiful story about family and friendship and society and government conspiracies and monsters. These things are all entwined so carefully and so intricately that the alternate world becomes an obvious metaphor for the characters’ lived experiences. But it’s also a real place, imbued with weight and specificity so that you believe in it – you see the parallels, but you also fall head first into the story. The Upside down serves the story because it provides a mirror, but it’s also actually a mirror in which allows the characters to find answers/closure/judgement for actions in their own world.

IT’S SO COOL!

This blog post could have been an ode to Stranger Things honestly, because I loved it, but I need to watch it a few more times first. Mostly it’s an ode to Netflix shows, because their metaphors so unbearably elegant and I think that’s why they’ve had such success. They’ve found a way to tell a story that is so wonderfully specific and fleshed out that it can’t help but find some universality. The metaphors aren’t just metaphors – they are stories. And it’s beautiful.

Yes, I know this blog post is late, and mostly incoherent. I had a bit of a strange week with not a lot of sleep – part certain individuals having loud phone conversations at 11:30pm, part the weather, part having potato chips in my pantry for the first time in ages, part thinking about a Nano novel, which would bring my current projects total up to three. But in thinking about this stuff I’ve been learning a lot about storytelling and how it gives me the chills and what makes it awesome and I’m really excited about that. So enjoy!

An Education

Sara and I recently started a collaborative playlist on Spotify called EDUCATION. It’s where we put music that we are super into for whatever reason. This is another why for us to get in each other’s brains while finding awesome new music.

In that vain, here are ten songs that are currently rocking my world and should probably also rock yours.

Nicola La / Ruby and the RabbitFoot / Divorce Party

 

Underdressed / VÉRITÉ / Underdressed

 

Dark Days / Local Natives / Sunlit Youth

 

Friends (feat. Bon Iver / Francis and the Lights / Single

 

Girls Your Age / Transviolet / Girls Your Age

 

We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez) / Charlie Puth / Nine Track Mind

 

Killing Me / Ofelia K / Killing Me

 

Blue Boss / Sampa the Great / Blue Boss

 

Get Low / James Vincent McMorrow / Get Low

 

Tropicana / Topaz Jones / Tropicana

Another List

 

IMG_0713.jpgI have to renew my passport before I go to Australia this December. I got this one in 2007 so I could go on a cruise with my family and it expires next July. I know they are going to send it back to me. I know I have enough time to get it renewed before I leave. I know that my next passport could, one day, be just as well stamped and stickered, just as worn and worldly around the edges. It might even be more so.

But there’s something disconcerting about it, something unnerving about the timing. I’m at a place in my life where I’m set for the foreseeable future. I have an apartment, a job in a field I’m looking to stick with, a city I’d like to get to know better. And I’m handing over this document, with its student visa for the UK, it’s visitor’s visa for India, it’s stamps from Italy and Ireland, Serbia and Greece. This is the passport that was on the train with me when I got hustled in Slovakia, when I missed my flight in France. This is the passport I used to get back from Rome when an Icelandic volcano grounded me. This passport took me to Australia for the first time after my parents moved.

I know the next one is going to take me to Australia too. I know that it can take me so many other places, that even though I’m no longer a student, I can make my own opportunities, take my own trips. If I actually get my finances under control, I could start building my new collage next year. I know this. I do.

……………………

My roommate has decided that this is the week to start having loud conversations on the phone after eleven at night, while simultaneously watching TV at top volume. So it’s been taking me longer than I’d like to fall asleep. An unusual complaint for me, to know what is keeping me awake at night, for that something to be outside my own mind.

I don’t particularly want to live here anymore, but I really don’t want to move. I don’t hate my commute, and my apartment itself is beautiful. I have one really nice roommate and one really terrible one. But I don’t really see myself staying here forever. I don’t feel like I can settle into this place. I don’t know if it’s the cold war hostilities or if it’s me. Is it me? Am I looking for something I’m not prepared to find yet?

……………………..

I haven’t listened to Kings of Leon in a long time. The last time I listened to them with any kind of intensity was while I was freewheeling my way across Europe on night trains, using their intensity to block out the ambient noises around me. But they popped up on Spotify today and I remembered just how much I loved them. How I waited in the rain on Governor’s Island to see them while Feist called Poseidon down on our heads and got the whole concert canceled for fear of electrocution. Cold wet and covered with mud, dehydrated and exhausted and so very alive.

…………………….

You can all tell how invested I am in this election, in doing everything I can to make sure that Hillary Clinton gets elected. It’s the number one thing keeping me up at night. It’s pretty much all consuming. And yet, still, every time I get a DNC email with a subject line like “WE’RE SCREWED!” My first thought is always “oh my god, no you’re not, simmer down…”

………………………

I need to go to the dry cleaner. I need to stop eating so much pasta. I need to buy rain boots. My liquor store has a terrible wine selection. I need to write my book.

 

Photo credit: Me, proving to my parents that I had my passport as I made my way to Australia. Yes, I was 26. Yes, I would probably make you text me a picture of your passport too.

Maybe you’re an idiot, but I am also an idiot

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Yesterday I got into an argument on Facebook. Which is never a promising way to start any sentence. This particular argument was related to the current election and I wasn’t the only one engaging with our adversary, but I was the only one to call this person an idiot.

This is something that I am neither proud of nor ashamed of. This person was in fact, being an idiot – they disregarded facts, did not listen to or acknowledge any points based on facts, and effectively said that EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey did not represent an abusive relationship because it was a best seller. There are many people I know who would say I was perfectly within my right to call this person an idiot. And I must say, it felt good.

But as good as it felt, if there’s one thing I think we call all agree on as a species, it’s that getting called stupid or an idiot or whatever really sucks. Instead of making us look at our life and look at our choices, being called an idiot usually makes us retreat further into our schools of thought, making us stew in self-righteous anger, being all moody and misunderstood.

No matter my feelings in the moment, I should probably have spent more time imagining this person complexly. Who knows exactly how they came to their way of thinking, but that doesn’t really matter. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion. And if I truly believe that they are fundamentally wrong, there are better ways to change people’s minds.

One of the most interesting pieces I read in 2015 was an article in The New Yorker about a women, Megan Phelps-Roper, who was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church and ran social media for the church, and how that lead to her questioning her beliefs and everything Westboro stands. While she spent her time tweeting things that made people cringe, she eventually came in contact with a Jewish web-developer named David Abitbol, who goes by the twitter handle @jewlicious. Though they would spend hours debating online, they enjoyed their back and forth, Roper-Phelps even admitting she liked that he was friendly.

Abitbol says in the article that he learned that relating to hateful people on a human level was the best way to deal with them. As Roper-Phelps continued to tweet her views, Abitbol politely countered her them, making himself as approachable as possible in order to humanize himself to her. His plan worked and he eventually changed her mind on some of Westboro’s most important doctrines. Her interactions with him led to her meeting others online who challenged her ways of thinking and eventually she left the church.

Now this of course took years. Roper-Phelps wasn’t convinced her previous way of thinking was wrong after just one interaction online. She had to chip away at it and she had to be open enough to believe there were other people out there that were good and held different opinions than hers. But without the compassion that some of her adversaries had for her, she may never have changed her mind.

I’m not saying that there was ever a way I could’ve reasoned with this person, especially on Facebook. And not everyone can change their minds. But it was a good reminder that change starts at the bottom, and it starts with us treating each other as people. Maybe not good people…but people nonetheless. It’s what this election is all about; the complexity of our systems and the complexity of ourselves.

So on November 8th, no matter what you think or believe, you should vote. Because people died to give you the right to vote and that goes for all of us idiots too.

If you’re interested in reading the article I mentioned, you can find it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6262122778